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Reptile and Amphibian Encyclopedia > Snakes > Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are a group of venomous snakes, genera Crotalus and Sistrurus. They belong to the subfamily of venomous snakes known commonly as pit vipers.

There are approximately thirty species of rattlesnake, with numerous subspecies. They receive their name for the rattle located at the end of their tails. The rattle is used as a warning device when threatened. Most rattlesnakes mate in the spring. All species give live birth, rather than laying eggs. The young are self-sufficient from birth. Since they do not need their mother after birth, the mother does not remain with her young. However, at least one captive study has demonstrated that females and their neonates show some level of affinity for each other's company and will cross barriers to reunite if separated.

Contrary to popular myth, rattlesnakes are not deaf. In fact, the structure of their inner ears is very much like that of other reptiles. They do, however, lack external ears. Sound (whether from air or ground vibration) is transmitted to the snake's inner ear via bone and muscle.

Crotalus

Sistrurus

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